Staff survey

Aiming for peace at the EPO

Three quarters of EPO staff are willing to go the extra mile to help the European Patent Office succeed. But a staff survey shows a great deal of dissatisfaction with the management's decisions. The survey serves as a litmus test for new president António Campinos' improvements, almost one year after taking office.

10 April 2019 by Christina Schulze

EPO, European Patent Office When will there be harmony at the EPO? ©EPO

The EPO is amplifying its employee voice through a new staff survey. It was conducted this year by risk management and advisory company Willis Towers Watson.

The study aims to determine if the revamped management strategy is having a positive impact on staff participation in the EPO. With a response rate of 85%, exactly 5,675 EPO employees participated.

Game of two halves

On one hand, staff recognise that their pay and benefits are competitive. This is unsurprising, because the payment is high for an international organisation. The employees who responded to the survey were also satisfied with the workload. In the era of previous president Benoît Battistelli, this was the subject of repeated complaints. Almost 80% of those surveyed said they had enough free time; 60% opined that the EPO has enough employees available for work.

On the other hand, EPO employees remain dissatisfied with decisions by the top management. The survey shows that the change in management alone does not mean a lasting improvement in the mood at the office.

António Campinos, European Patent Office President Munich

António Campinos

António Campinos, former executive director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in Alicante, assumed the EPO presidency in July 2018. One of his principal tasks is to restore peace to the office.

However, 60% of EPO employees do not believe that management provide a clear sense of direction, putting the workforce at an alarming 40% below the benchmark.

The survey shows that three quarters of employees are satisfied with their immediate manager. However, only one in five is satisfied with the communication by upper management. This figure is surprisingly low compared to the European benchmark, which according to the employee satisfaction rate should be around 60%.

The EPO staff used the comment section in the survey as an opportunity to propose solutions. For example, employees asked for more open and honest explanations for management decisions.

Lack of respect

Another surprising insight is that only 40% of those surveyed believe that all EPO employees are treated with respect. Furthermore, the number of employees who identify good opportunities for their personal development is far below the benchmark.

The survey also shows that employees are greatly concerned about the office’s commitment to quality, and about its reputation and service focus. A majority of 60% is convinced that the EPO enjoys a good reputation, although the benchmark for this question is over 80%.

Overall, the examiners showed above-average concern. The EPO did not wish to comment on the study or how it plans to proceed in the future.